East Shore: Coconut Coast
Near the airport
Kauai's first tall ships harbor lies at the end of our airport road.Coming in to the airport, keep to the left lane to reach it. Going out,go straight instead of veering to the left to exit. Ahukini Bay is hauntingly beautiful. Hawaiians still fish here using nets, free diving, and more modern fishing rods. Think twice before standing out on the rock wall there; waves come crashing right over it on a regular basis. Sea turtles come here to feed. On very calm days, it is safe to snorkel/dive here. Put in to the left of the sea wall and keep an eye on the sea state.
If you turn left out of the airport you will quickly be in the Kalapaki Bay area. This is not the best place to swim on island due to the often high bacteria count, but a fun place to hang out. The Marriott has beach parking and a beach volleyball net.This is a favorite spot for watching sunsets, whales,cruise ships coming in and out of Nawiliwili harbor, and outrigger canoes. The restaurant whose deck overlooks the harbor on the right hand side is JJ's Broiler. Go for lunch, not dinner. Once the sun sets, go to Nawiliwili Harbor (a short stroll) and eat dinner upstairs at Dukes (named after Duke Kahanamoku, an original Waikiki Beach Boy), reservations are recommended, best salad bar on island. Cafe Portofino (Italian) is another restaurant that should not disappoint. And, be sure to check the newspaper each day; we have a lot of small concerts here.
From the Wailua River to the Hills
Between Lihue and Kapaa you can turn Mauka (towards the mountains) at the site of the now defunct "Blue Hawaii" Coco Palms Resort; head up Kuamoo Road and stop at the Opaekaa waterfall at the top of the hill. If you come on weekends there will probably be a local artist painting the waterfall. Three hundred yards after you turn right from the waterfall on Kuamoo Road there is a small clearing. This is the unmarked path tothe pool at the waterfalls, if it resembles Fantasy Island when you get down there, don't be surprised. Unfortunately a few tourists have fallen to their death so they make it hard to do this hike. Or hike the Giant! Park on the right four hundred yards further and around the turn for a great hike up Sleeping Giant (mountain). You'll see cars parked in front of an area where horses are grazing. There's a nice picnic area about a mile up the trail where you can look out over the whole area.
Continue driving up the mountain and nearly three miles up the road there's a nearly hidden paved right hand turn that leads to a lovely reservoir with two fishing piers. Great sunset place, but do bring Skin So Soft, or whatever works for you against mosquitoes (I setup citronella candles on the rails) and bring beach chairs for a waterfront sunset view. : ) The next paved right should be the Kuiliau trailhead, my favorite hike. It has a small paved parking area on the right side as you head up the mountain toward the arboretum. The trail guides you up to the spine of the ridge where you can see mountains to your left and the sea down below to the right- this is not to be missed. Try to go on a drier day; this trail becomes really slick &muddy after a heavy rain. I love the mountains in this part of the island.
For your first snorkeling adventure turn at the Aloha Beach Resort, just a bit to the airport side of the Wailua River bridge, to access Lydgate Park. There is a perennially safe spot for swimming and snorkeling inside the lava rock walled sea pool at Lydgate: gentle waters, pretty fish, ancient Hawaiian ruins to tour, it's a nice place to wind down at the end of the day. Our community recently came together to build a second playground area for Lydgate; walk down the beach to the right as you're facing it, and you'll come upon our bridge and decked playscape. This section of beach is gorgeous and often deserted. Some say it is safe to swim in front of the golf course near their tall wall, but we've not tried it - proceed with caution. About ten people suffer death by drowning every year here.Stick to swimming at Lydgate till you have your gear checked out! And, stick to swimming at beaches with lifeguards. If you must swim in the ocean where there are no lifeguards, please wear fins.
The new restaurant on east shore is Lava Lava. It is a lot of fun with tables and sitting areas right on the sand. Reservations for table outside are recommended, the sitting areas are first come, first serve.
Go to the Coconut Marketplace. Yes, it really is open, but they have been remodeling for years. Walk behind it out to the beach. Starting at the Kauai Sands, there's a 1/2-mile walk along the shoreline. It's a romantic stroll at night. All the hotels along that strip pitched in to make and maintain the walkway. Sometimes monk seals come onto the beach for the night. Do plan on taking a moonlight walk on the beach, or several beaches. Near the end of the 1/2 mile walk is a restaurant called the Hukilau; excellent seafood, steak,fresh salads, and a robust wine list await you there; we highly recommend this restaurant.
Kapaa to Kealia
From Coconut Marketplace, turn right, and you'll be into Kapaa's primary shopping area, with three grocery stores ( depending on how you count) and more. On your left you will see Foodland where they have a decent Indian restaurant. The Kauai Village shopping center which is anchored by Safeway.
In Kauai Village there is a cluster of restaurants: Subway, Papaya's organic food, Panda Express, to name a few. Papaya's is a health food store and hot/cold deli. It's a good place to get a bowl of soup, a touch of tabouli, hummus, or falafel as you're passing through. For sodas, water bottles and picnic supplies consider Cost U Less, a quarter mile down the road in the direction of North Shore (going away from the airport), because they can save you a little bit of money.
I try to shop at Safeway very carefully, their fish prices are often competitive, but their produce is very high. Head past our three grocery stores, and you'll soon be in "old Kapaa town" with some fun local stores to do window shopping. Best informal food in old Kapaa town: Pono Market. Try their sushi/sashimi/poke. It's top quality, fresh, delicious and it goes fast. The scallop salad is my personal favorite, but it's all good. Pick a few of their concoctions, grab some chopsticks and wander out to the beach for a fun picnic. The farmer's market is on Wednesday at 3:00 in Kapaa. Go to the coconut man's stand, and buy an icy cold coconut with a straw in it. (5.50 for a large one; ask for two straws and share!) When you've sipped all the coconut milk, take it back to him for whacking so you can proceed to eat the fresh coconut inside.
Some of the classic places to eat are Bubba Burgers and Olympic Cafe, neither is very good, but if you like road front car watching dining, you might enjoy. Mermaids isn't for everyone, but I like their Ahi wrap and get it to do, walk around to the ocean and sit down and eat it right on the grass, the liquor store across the street has great prices on very cold waterbottles. My favorite, by far though is Chicken in a Barrel. It is next to the recreation center and we love to get some plates and sit by the ocean. Highly recommended.
Breakfast is often enjoyed at Country Kitchen. It isn't our cup of team, but many a Sunday morning there is a waiting line. Next door is Hemingway, a coffee shop that has been expanding their food offerings steadily and they speak gluten free.
Continuing north from old Kapaa town, drive a few more blocks past the soccer field and Kapaa library and park on the right side. This is one of several access point to a beach trail that continues closely along the coastal shoreline almost to Anahola. There are few amenities alongside the path; plan on carrying water. The first surf beach you'll see is Kealia where there is a bathroom and water fountain. This is a good place to watch surfers; do not attempt to swim here unless you enter on the far left and swim near the rock wall on your left. This is a beautiful spot, particularly for walking and ocean viewing. However,wicked waves and currents abound here. Park and watch the Octopus divers while sipping morning coffee.
Art Night Kapaa
In Kapaa, on the first Saturday of the month is Art Walk Night. Everybody comes out for it, hopefully we will see you there.